Q: I recently added a requirement in my dance team contract for parents to help out with one act of a recital performance. Some are upset. They say, "We pay so much money, all year long, to finally see our kids dance in the recital." How do I respond? Without their help, I'll have to cut competition dances from the shows.
A: Yes, parents pay a considerable amount of money for their children's dance education. This doesn't mean you should tolerate negativity regarding your volunteer policy. (Most parents don't even realize the countless hours you give that they never pay for.)
We recommend that when you make a change to participation requirements, you use this as an opportunity to review guidelines, set expectations and address concerns. Hold a required meeting for all team parents, and be sure to follow up with a document that explains what you will cover for those who cannot attend. Keep the meeting positive by thanking the parents and reminding them that they are just as much a part of the team as the dancers. If a parent complains about costs, explain that volunteers help keep everyone's costs down.
If you can ensure that they will get to watch their child dance in one full performance (if you have more than one show), or at least watch the numbers they dance in, it will set them at ease. We've created an easy entrance into the theater for parents to watch the dances their child is in, as well as an area backstage where they can watch from the wings. It's a win-win for our volunteer needs and the parents.
Changing the culture of your studio when it comes to volunteers or policies may not always be met with cheers of love and support, but don't let it stop you from moving forward with improvements to your business.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.